**In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week April 23-29, 2023, we want to share this article from our blog archive.**
Do you or a loved one struggle with infertility? Struggling with infertility is something nobody expects to happen to them. It is hard to truly prepare for the grief and pain that can come along with struggling to fall pregnant and/or carry a child to term. This article is here to help you, and we hope you learn something new while reading.
How Common are Infertility Struggles?
Infertility struggles are extremely common. Here are a few statistics to show how common infertility struggles are in the United States:
- 1 in 8 couples will experience infertility
- 1 in 4 women will experience at least one miscarriage
- 1 in 100 women will experience a stillbirth
- 1 in 160 couples will experience infant loss
That’s a lot of people struggling with the grief and trauma of loss! Add on top of that, there’s a stigma around infertility issues. Because infertility is often not talked about very much, many people have misunderstandings and shame around infertility. We hope this article helps by clearing up some of the incorrect beliefs you may have about infertility.
The Different Types of Infertility
Infertility comes in many shapes and sizes. Many of the diagnoses for infertility are difficult to detect, but finding the right doctor that will work with you to find answers will make all the difference. Here are some of the common types of infertility:
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
- PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edge. Common symptoms include irregular periods, weight gain, painful periods due to enlarged ovaries with cysts, excessive body hair and acne, and more.
- Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus on other organs in the woman’s body. Common symptoms include pain in the abdomen and lower back, especially during menstruation, abnormal or heavy menstrual flow, painful intercourse, and more.
Male factor infertility
- Male factor is the inability to conceive a child on the males part often due to lower than normal amount of sperm, slow sperm, or problems with sexual function. Common symptoms include difficulty with ejaculation, painful intercourse, decreased facial or body hair, low sex drive and more.
- A few other possible causes of infertility include:
- Advanced maternal age (starts around age 35)
- Anovulation (irregular or inability to ovulate)
- Cancer treatments
- Recurrent pregnancy loss
Common Types of Treatment and Their Cost
When you are struggling with infertility in your marriage, your first step is to find a doctor that will work with you to find the best course of treatment. Tests may need to be performed to determine if you or your partner have any of the above mentioned diagnoses. Once you have determined what a possible cause is, or if the infertility is unexplained, your doctor will be able to help you determine where to go from there. You may be able to work with your primary care physician or your OB-GYN for the first bit. But if your infertility struggles continue, you may be required to see a fertility specialist. For help finding a specialist near you, check out fertilityoutloud.com.
One of the first types of treatment you may try is a common medication called Clomid. This medication urges your ovaries to produce more than one healthy egg each month to increase your chances of having at least one of these eggs meet with sperm and implant in your uterine lining. The cost of this medication varies based on your insurance, your pharmacy, and more.
After trying Clomid or other similar medications, and quite possibly at the same time as trying these medications, you will often be recommended to try a procedure called IUI, which stands for Intrauterine Insemination. This is a procedure where the doctor takes a sample of the husband’s semen, washes it in a way that makes it so the sperm can move more freely, and then use a tool to insert the semen into your cervix during ovulation so there is a higher chance of the sperm reaching the egg. An IUI ranges in price from $800-$1500 per menstrual cycle plus the cost of medications to stimulate the ovaries such as Clomid.
The next big step, if several IUI’s do not work, is IVF. This stands for In Vitro Fertilization. During In Vitro Fertilization, the woman takes much harsher drugs to help her produce as many follicles (healthy mature eggs) as possible in one cycle. Those eggs are then surgically extracted and joined together with the husband’s sperm in a lab. These eggs are then watched closely and kept in ideal conditions to become a zygote, or a fertilized egg. Once these fertilized eggs are ready, the right day of the woman’s cycle is waited for and the zygotes are inserted into the woman’s uterus in hopes that at least one of these zygotes will implant in the uterine lining and mature into a baby. The cost of IVF runs from approximately $12,000 to $30,000 each cycle. A cycle of IVF takes 2 months due to the complexity and severity of drugs involved.
How the Medications for these Treatments Affect Your Mood
It is extremely important to be aware of what side effects are possible with each of the medications you take so that when any of them happen, you are aware of what is happening. For instance, some women report that Clomid can mess with her hormones and affect her mental state, making it harder for her to control her moods. Knowing this is coming from the medication and not just from you or your wife is a big relief. So be sure to brush up on the side effects of each of the medications you are taking before you start taking them.
How Can Infertility Affect Your Marriage Relationship?
Going through infertility can be very trying on a relationship. It is extremely easy to become consumed by the pain, the sense of loss from unsuccessful pregnancy attempts, the constant tracking of your cycle, the pressure behind sex, and ultimately the inability to bear a child. If you are the one who has issues in their body contributing to your infertility, you may be tempted to shame yourself for not being able to give your spouse a child. There is a lot of pressure and even guilt that comes along with this. Often, your marriage takes a back seat to everything you are trying to do to have a child. Sex can become monotonous, and like a chore if you let it. But it’s extremely important to continue to work on your marriage.
One of the most important ways to make a struggle with infertility a little less awful, is having a good support system in place. Hopefully, your spouse can be a great support to you. Let them in if you have been closed off. They are feeling the doubts and fears you are, maybe in a different way, but they are feeling them as well. Allow them to share their feelings with you and share with them. Rely on your doctor. They know what they’re doing, and will be able to explain things to you in the best way possible. Another thing that helps so much is finding a support group near you. Jaina Thurston from TTC Boxes, a subscription box business for those trying to conceive, has compiled a list of all of the support groups throughout the US. Go check it out here and find a group near you that you can lean on. There’s nothing that helps more than having someone who truly understands be there to listen and struggle with you.
Advice from a Husband Going Through This
When we recently chatted with Sadie Banks of Good Grief Journals, she told us her personal experience with infertility. She has PCOS and they went through many treatments before having their first child. She let us know the advice her husband would give to other husbands who are struggling with them and their wives going through infertility. This is what he shared:
- Keep your expectations realistic: the medications she’s taking may make her go crazy, so get ready to deal with it.
- Take the time to communicate your feelings with your spouse. Husbands are feeling hard things too.
- This is our trial, not just her trial. Remember that.
If you are interested in hearing more of Sadie’s story and all the tips and tricks she gave to keep your intimacy strong through infertility, listen to the full podcast episode here.
What Can You Do as a Couple to Reignite the Spark in Your Marriage?
Fertility issues don’t need to dominate your marriage, eroding your intimate relationship. Make sex fun! Have a good time with each other in and out of the bedroom. When you have the opportunity (based on schedules given you by your doctor and other factors), have sex when it “doesn’t matter” (when it’s not for the purpose of trying to conceive). Have sex just for the fun of having sex! Reignite the passion of your relationship by flirting with each other and going on dates that are fun and where you can enjoy one another’s company. Remember that you got married for a reason. You want to start a family together for a reason. Remember those reasons as you go through this hard time! Making sex fun is easier when you have the right resources. Download the Intimately Us app here for tons of resources in the palm of your hand!
Tips on How to Flirt
One of the ways mentioned above to reconnect with your spouse is to flirt with each other. But after being married for a while, you may have forgotten exactly how to flirt with each other. Here are a few tips to help you get that flirting spark back:
- Texting is a great way to flirt with your spouse. Send them fun, flirty messages throughout the day. Need a good way to send these messages to your spouse? Check out our app, Just Between Us for a private messaging system just for you and your spouse.
- Write notes for your spouse. Leave them notes on your bathroom mirror, in their lunch or their car before they leave for work for the day.
- Remember what you did when you were dating each other. Do that again!
- Just start doing something and sometimes the feeling of wanting to do that thing will follow.
Infertility is hard. It’s scary not knowing when you will be able to have children, how many tests you will have to go through, or what procedures are going to be needed before conceiving a child. But hold on to hope. Find those people that you can lean on through the tough times and let them be there for you. Know that you are not alone and that you can find a community to help you through this time.
We hope this article helped you feel a little more confident in your infertility journey. Check out Sadie at Good Grief Journals for more support and tips on working on your marriage through infertility and grief. You can find her at www.goodgriefjournals.com or on Facebook and Instagram @goodgriefjournals.